Haiti to Relocate 400,000 While Rebuilding Capital

As relief organizations in Haiti turn their eyes towards recovery, the Haitian government has announced its plans to relocate nearly 400,000 quake survivors from the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince to the country's rural areas.

Officials have said that the move is necessary in order to prevent disease from spreading but also because considerations are being made to move Port-au-Prince to a safer location, away from geological fault lines.

"We have to evacuate the streets and relocate the people," Communications Minister Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue told Reuters. "We hope we will be able to start at the end of the week."

Haitian President Rene Preval said that people have to mobilize quickly before the country's rainy season starts in early February. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive announced Preval's request for 200,000 tents from donors at a meeting in Montreal on Monday.

"Anybody who's got those tents, get in touch with us," John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told delegates at the meeting, which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper among others.

A second international meeting is scheduled to be held at the U.N. headquarters in New York in March.

Meanwhile, efforts at reconstructing Haiti continue to be overshadowed by victims' daily needs on the ground, including food, water, shelter, and medical support.

"It is very difficult for me to talk reconstruction when we do not take these other matters into account," Bellerive said on Monday.

International relief coalition Action By Churches Together (ACT) said the situation for quake survivors "continues to be desperate" as relief distribution remains sluggish.

"Material aid is slowly reaching [survivors] but, due to the lack of data and weak government coordination, the organization and distribution of aid is still a challenge," the group said in a statement.

"Some incidents of fighting for aid have been registered but they are mostly due to lack of proper organization of the distribution."

ACT also reported "some normality" coming back to Haiti, with a handful of gas stations and supermarkets reopening.

Meanwhile, stories of the Haitian people's faith and hope in the midst of tragedy continue to be told.

The Rev. Douglas Hill of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) recounted the kindness he received from locals while waiting in the Jacmel airport hours after the quake hit.

"The Haitians took care of us. They are beautiful people. They welcomed us as brothers and sisters," Hill told the ELCA News Service. "In the refugee area, we slept and lived with the Haitian people for two days. We didn't provide care for anyone, they provided care for us there."

"Our ordeal was one thing, but I don't want to draw attention to us," he continued. "The focal point here is the hope, peace, faith and the pursuit of life around us that overshadowed the death and destruction we saw."

"We encountered friendliness and kindness from everyone we met. Haitians are strong people, full of hope," he added.

"I am incredibly humbled by the depth and strength of the people in Haiti."

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News